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2007-04-23 11:20
What it’s about:

Otis is a young cow who refuses to grow up. He just wants to party, party, party at The Barnyard with his friends, Pip, a cheeky mouse, and Pig, who is… a fat pig. His father, Ben the Cow, is getting tired of it. Ben tries to teach Otis that responsibility is a part of life, but Otis won’t listen. He flouts all the rules and risks revealing to the humans that the animals can actually talk and walk upright. He even has a cellphone! But when coyote season begins and tragedy strikes, it’s up to Otis to protect the other farm animals.

What we thought of it:

It has to be tough making an animated film these days. Standards are higher and tastes have changed dramatically. Kids born in the 21st century are far more savvy and demanding than those brought up on Beauty & The Beast or The Little Mermaid. The story should be highly original. The humour has to be witty, culturally relevant and a touch satirical. But there must also be genuine emotion at the film’s heart.

Unfortunately, Barnyard doesn’t check any of these boxes. The main problem is that it tries too hard to do everything. The movie cannot decide if it’s aimed at both children and adults (like Shrek) or mainly kids (like Happy Feet). There are five or six hilarious moments that everyone will enjoy – a prancing pony who resembles Michael Flatley for instance – but these giggle-inducing cameos are not enough to sustain a 90-minute film.

There is a lack of visual excitement and background detail too. Inside the barn, the party scenes are an enthralling swirl of music and fun, but, once again, few and far between. And as soon as we move outside, the animation quality and attention to detail drops significantly. This is not helped by the fact that Otis and the other cows look like giant marshmallows.

Then there are the downright weird elements. Like male cows having udders (are they bulls or hermaphrodites?) and baby cows that look like rubber cushions with teats. It’s false, distracting and kind of disturbing, although the producers obviously thought a bull’s equipment would be more so.

Compounding this is a storyline and characters that are too obvious to have any heartfelt impact or charisma. Otis’s and Ben’s feelings are spelt out rather than suggested, which makes it hard to care. If writer/director Steve Oedekerk thought real emotion would be too complex for kids to understand, he’s obviously never seen The Lion King. The average seven-year-old is more empathetic than most jaded adults.

The voice performances are probably the best part of Barnyard, with Danny Glover pitch-perfect as wise old Miles the Mule and Sam Elliot conveying the true strength of a leader as Ben the Cow. Dave Koechner is particularly impressive, putting real menace into the snarling and murderous Dag the Coyote, while Wanda Sykes as Bessy the Cow exercises her trademark sassy attitude to great effect.

Barnyard is not a bad animated film, it just doesn’t come close to the level of instant classics like Over The Hedge or Finding Nemo. It’ll keep the kids adequately amused for a Saturday afternoon or three, but it will also be as quickly forgotten as yesterday afternoon’s K-TV programming.

- Amanda Whitehouse
This animated film about barnyard animals is occasionally funny and charming, but hardly farm fresh.


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Bae 2007-02-19 11:32 AM
Just one question? I might be mistaken, but wasn't Courtney Cox Arquette(Friends) also one of the people doing a voice performance?
Amanda 2007-02-22 06:22 PM
Courtney Cox-Arquette You're right Bae. Courtney Cox-Arquette played the voice of Daisy the Cow, the love interest.
Tharina 2007-03-12 03:27 PM
The Barnyard It is a very funny and cool movie. I have only watched in ones and will watch it again.

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